Everything I Learned about Christmas I Learned from Watching TV, Final Installment: The True Meaning of Christmas

After the hints about Christmas from the Grinch and Rudolf I finally turned to that trusted friend Charlie Brown.

In A Charlie Brown Christmas Charlie Brown is struggling to find out why Christmas is so depressing. He seeks advice from his local psychiatrist, Lucy, who gets him to direct the school Christmas play.

Well, this doesn't go very well. Eventually, Charlie Brown is rejected as director and asked instead to go buy a Christmas tree for the play.

Most of the symbolism in A Charlie Brown Christmas focuses on the tree he picks out. Out of all the shiny, bright metallic trees (Which I never have understood, btw. Why are they selling hollow metallic trees? Was this ever a trend?) Charlie Brown picks a real but forlorn little tree that isn't much more than a branch.

Charlie Brown takes this "tree" back to the cast and they laugh at both him and the tree. This ridicule pushes Charlie Brown over the edge and he finally screams, "Would someone please tell me the true meaning of Christmas!!!!!" At which point Linus steps forward.

But before we hear Linus' answer, let's reflect on the symbol of the forlorn little Christmas tree. It's a humble little tree, not much to look at. And it's rejected and despised by men. And yet, it is real. All those flashy other trees are dead, cold, and fake. They are empty and hollow. But this fragile little tree is REAL. It's fragile, but real.

And all this taught me that whatever Christmas is about, it is about something that is humble, about something fragile and weak, about something that is despised, marginalized, and overlooked. It is life, it's real, but it's so humble that it is easily overlooked and passed over. Further, its humility makes it a stone of stumbling, a scandal, and a reason for offense.

So, to recap, these are all the lessons I learned about Christmas from watching TV:

I learned that Christmas was MORE and that it had something to do with finding community.

I learned that, because of Christmas, there were no more misfits, no more outsiders or marginalized ones.

I learned about empathy, compassion, and that Messiahs might be misfits.

I learned about how community can be the route for the redemption of evil.

And here with Charlie Brown, I learned that the humility of Christmas makes it oft overlooked and despised.
But to this point in all this TV viewing no one ever connected the dots among all these things. No one had spoken the word that explained just what all this stuff had to do with Christmas. So I perfectly understood why Charlie Brown screamed "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about!!!!!"

Well, Charlie Brown and I finally got our answer. Linus steps forward and explains it all:

May there be peace on earth and good will to all.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

6 thoughts on “Everything I Learned about Christmas I Learned from Watching TV, Final Installment: The True Meaning of Christmas”

  1. Charlie Brown has always been my favorite Christmas movie. I love the image you displayed on the little tree. I never noticed that before, and somehow, because of the parallelism of the tree and Christ I have fallen in love with it all over again. Thanks for reminding me about the true meaning of why we celebrate this time of year. Merry Christmas!

  2. Richard,

    And what about the wonderful music?! It's my favorite Christmas music.

    A real-life story:

    One year when my older brother had been away at college for a year or two, our house was late in getting the tree up. I was sent out to get it, and the pickings were poor where I went. Having my courage bolstered, however, by the Charlie Brown Christmas special, I decided that a sparse, scraggly tree was just what the season required.

    My brother, however, was fresh out of a philosophy class where he had read Nietzsche's critique of Christianity's "transvaluation" of values (i.e., reverence for the weak and lowly rather than the strong and proud). He saw my choice of tree as a prime instance of that weakness. I had no real idea, at the time, what had got into him, but I was able--nevertheless-to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I had not been influenced by my faith nearly as much as my brother thought: we got into a fight!

    Yes, it's true, and I think the the story is perversely funny these 25 years later.

    Well, hope the story doesn't spoil the mood for anyone.


  3. Tracy,
    Spoil the mood? Are you kidding me? What a hilariously perverse story! I love it! Two brothers fighting about Nietzsche during Christmas. Amazing.

    I love it as well. Not much of Snoopy in this post, but he's the best thing in the show.

  4. Hi Richard -

    I linked to this post and copied your summary and gave you credit over on my blog. Many blessings to you and Jana and the kiddo's.

  5. I don't know if anyone will see this, but according to wikipedia, "The popularity of the special practically eliminated the popularity of the aluminum Christmas tree, which was a fad from 1958 to 1965, when the special portrayed it negatively. By 1967, just two years after the special first aired, they were no longer being regularly manufactured." Wow. Great post, by the way.

Leave a Reply